K-State’s Dalton Risner celebrates with K-State fans
He was a three-time team captain and a three-time All-Big 12 offensive lineman. He earned All-America honors from multiple publications. He’s considered a first-round talent in the upcoming NFL Draft.
For Risner, though, no honor means more than being named one of three finalists for the Jason Witten Collegiate Man of the Year Award. It’s college football’s version of the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, given to players who excel and show leadership on and off the field.
“I take that [recognition] above getting All-Big 12 first-team. That’s above any type of football award,” Risner said last month at the Senior Bowl. “I’m not in this room cause football is most important to me. I promise everyone here that faith is the most important thing in my life.
“I’m using this platform to be a disciple of God. By doing so, I’m really active in the community. When Jason Witten named me one of three people in the whole entire country of football players to meet him and be at The Star in Frisco, Texas, tears were coming down for sure.
“I take a lot of pride in that. It’ll be an honor to be there.”
The ceremony takes place next Tuesday at The Star in Frisco.
Risner will be joined by other finalists D’Cota Dixon, a safety from Wisconsin, and Derrick Brown, a defensive lineman from Auburn.
Risner is a name that most college football fans in the area will be familiar with since he spent his playing days in the Big 12. He also became a social media sensation when a few of his speeches went viral whether it was calling out fair-weather fans, or on his leadership skills.
Risner didn’t go into his spiels again, but knows that helped raise his profile as a college athlete even more. Especially for a player who doesn’t play a glamorous position.
“You know, man, I’m real,” Risner said. “I’m going to say it how it is. I’m not going to be brushed up and tell people what they want to hear. I called out our fan base. We were 5-7, that’s when families come together. I’m not going to go on my whole rant again. I speak it how it is and I take a lot of pride in that.
“That’s what the media wants. They want people to be real. I’m going to say how I feel and I’m going to say what’s on my mind in a good, supportive way. I love that people love to hear from me. I’m going to continue talking as long as long as people want to interview me.”
Risner loves talking about how he uses his platform to give back to the community. He started the RiseUp Foundation, which encourages everyone to “RISE above the evil and sin in this world and be a positive shining light in the lives of others.”
He is a frequent volunteer at the Buttonwood Special Needs Home in Manhattan, Kansas, and is also a Big Brother to a child fighting leukemia.
Those are the types of players Witten envisioned honoring when he became the namesake of the award.
Last year’s inaugural winner, UCF’s Shaquem Griffin, was one of the most inspirational stories by becoming an NFL player without his left hand.
All of this year’s finalists are worthy of recognition.
Dixon is a product of the foster care system and is among the most active student-athletes in community service at Wisconsin. Brown is vice president of Auburn’s Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and has done mission work in the Dominican Republic.
Witten’s SCORE Foundation will make a $10,000 contribution in the winner’s name to his school’s athletic scholarship fund.